6 TV season (or series) finales worth streaming

With the TV season ending, now is a great time to catch up with shows that are either finishing their run completely, or just coming to the end of remarkable seasons. Here are five finales from this year’s May sweeps that are worth your time (along with where you can catch up with earlier episodes).

The Office

★★★

Hulu, Series finale now streaming Netflix, first 8 seasons now streaming

The Office (NBC, 2004–2013) has had a long, accomplished, and somewhat inconsistent run as NBC’s strongest sitcom. Starting off as little more than an American clone of a British show, it eventually grew into a stranger and more optimistic show than its forebearer. Like most shows that last nine seasons, The Office suffered diminishing returns in its later seasons—especially with the departure of Steve Carell after season seven—so it’s nice to see that the series finale manages to rally back to the spirit of the show. It isn’t the best episode the series has ever produced, but it’s a fitting end to a sitcom that will be remembered fondly for decades to come.

Scandal

★★★½

Hulu, season 2 now streaming Netflix, season 1 now streaming

Scandal (ABC, 2012-Present) didn’t start off with the most promising premise. Kerry Washington’s character Olivia Pope is having an affair with the president that threatens to destroy his administration and her career as a political advisor. Add in a creator credit from Shonda Rhimes, best known for Grey’s Anatomy, and the show seemed destined to be a tawdry soap opera with political trappings. And for the first season it kind of was. When the show returned last fall, however, it sensed its impending cancelation and retooled itself into a much darker and more interesting show. The soap opera elements were still there, but its political commentary was much sharper and more cynical. Scandal became a sort of dark soap opera mirror of The West Wing where everyone is corrupt and looking to destroy each other. Cancelation also made the show start burning through plot at a breakneck pace, and the combination turned Scandal into one of ABC’s best shows, getting it picked up for another nine episodes (the original order for season two was for just thirteen) and now a third season that seems poised to let the show really take off.

New Girl

★★★★

Hulu, season 2 now streaming

Another show that really came into its own this year after a bumpy first season was New Girl (Fox, 2011-Present). The Zooey Deschanel-helmed sitcom (at top) was all wacky relationship foibles and “adorkable” antics at first, but as it slowly expanded its cast of characters and sketched in the roommates Jess (Deschanel) was living with, it morphed into a really enjoyable and accomplished hangout sitcom. The arc that closed out the season, where Jess started a romantic relationship with a roommate, felt like the show finally figuring out where its strengths were and having the confidence to commit to them.

Elementary

★★★★½

CBS.com, first season finale now streaming

When CBS first announced Elementary (CBS 2012-Present), critical consensus assumed it would be a cheap American rip-off of the BBC’s Sherlock. Both shows update the Holmes mythos to the modern day and Elementary seemed to almost beg the comparison by casting Jonny Lee Miller, hiring him away from playing the same character as Sherlock’s Benedict Cumberbatch in “Frankenstein” at the National Theater (they swapped between the doctor and the monster every other night) so he could easily have played the same character as Cumberbatch on CBS. In case that wasn’t enough to make the show sound like a cash-in, Elementary also moves the great detective across the ocean to New York and adds in a sexy female Watson played by Lucy Liu. Once the show started to air, however, an amazing thing happened: it was pretty good. The show’s mysteries were clever and they played it surprisingly chaste with Sherlock and Watson, with their burgeoning friendship established as an unromantic partnership quickly and effectively. Now, as the first season comes to a close, the show builds out the first major addition to its mythology by adding in Elementary’s version of Moriarty, and, like the rest of the show, it’s both a wild deviation from the established Sherlock Holmes mythology and a brilliant and exciting choice for the show itself.

How I Met Your Mother

★★★½

Cbs.com, Eighth season finale now streaming Netflix, first seven seasons now streaming

As How I Met Your Mother (CBS, 2005-Present) extended its run year after year, the discussion around the show has become less about how it’s a fun, effective sitcom with a great cast and more about when the hell we’re going to meet the damn mother already. Well, we met her, and while fan reaction to the reveal has been mixed, it’s got real potential to re-energize the show going into its final season. It’s hard to deny that, like most sitcoms, How I Met Your Mother has had a decline in its later seasons. The show’s conceit, that it’s all one big story of how the main character meets his future wife, makes it even more obvious when the show starts jogging in place, but it’s still a show that can pull out an amazing episode when it wants to. That’s what happens when you have Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Segel waiting to do musical numbers at the drop of a hat. Hopefully, this revelation and a firm end-date at next season’s finale will energize the show to return to the high quality of its earlier seasons.

The Americans

★★★★½

FX.com, first season finale now streaming

Over the course of the spring, The Americans (FX, 2013-present) quietly—some might even say covertly—grew into the best new drama on television. Set in the earlier 1980s, the show follows a pair of undercover Russian operatives who have to simultaneously navigate dangerous spy missions against the United States and their own shaky marriage. It sounds too clever for its own good, a kind of period piece Mr. and Mrs. Smith, but in practice it succeeds by making all of the spycraft background noise in comparison to the character’s relationships. Two undercover enemy operatives in, effectively, an arranged marriage doesn’t seem a likely set-up for TV’s best portrayal of matrimony, but Kerri Russell and Matthew Rhys give great performances as Elizabeth and Philip Jennings, and the show continually manages to find the universal elements in the couple’s thoroughly unusual relationship.

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